Jon Mills ©
Published in the Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 1997, 28(1), 42-65.
What does it mean to be authentic? Perhaps this is a question one can never adequately answer. As elusive as the meaning of being, the question of authenticity existentially moans for a response. Within the context of Heidegger's existential ontology, the investigation of Dasein's struggle for authenticity will be the central focus of this article. While Heidegger was primarily concerned with the question of Being (Sein) rather than the nature of beings (Seiende), he was deeply interested in the interface between philosophy and psychology. Heidegger's close friendship with the Swiss psychiatrist Medard Boss is well known. At Boss's invitation, Heidegger gave seminars to psychiatrists in Zurich for over ten years on his existential-ontological treatment of Dasein and its theoretical applications to psychological practice. The founder of Daseinsanalysis, Boss was instrumental in introducing Heideggerian philosophy to the mental health profession in Europe, which eventually made its way into the American existential psychology movement in the 1950's and 1960's. From the published Heidegger seminars, Boss informs us that Heidegger expressed the hope that his thinking could break away from purely philosophical inquiry to benefit those in human suffering, including psychiatric populations (Boss, 1978-1979; Richardson, 1993; Guignon 1993).
Despite Heidegger's apathy toward psychoanalysis, (see Craig, 1988; Richardson, 1993), his conceptualization of Dasein has direct and significant contributions for psychoanalytic thought. While potential conceptual quandaries between the ontological discourse of Heideggerian theory and the ontical discourse of psychodynamic approaches exist, Heidegger's existential ontology has profound implications for understanding the ontology of the unconscious and the question of authenticity.
Some may argue that psychology is not ontology and that the conceptual link between the two is illegitimate. While Husserl (1950) tarried with ontological psychology (see Cartesian Meditations, § 59), this was not a problem for Hegel, and we are proceeding with the assumption that our understanding of the human condition is grounded in a structural ontology. As comprehensively outlined in Hegel's Science of Logic (1812), thought is not possible without such ontological structures, namely, the primordial ground of consciousness' emerging to find itself as the coming to presence of pure subjectivity. Thus, reason is contingent on some prior form of consciousness that necessarily requires an underlying ontology. As Hegel points out, without such an ontological ground, thought could not exist, for subjectivity is the necessary condition that makes thought possible. However, we do not wish to equivocate the ontological-ontical terminology or treat them as though they were interchangeable. My aim is to proceed with a clear respect for the line between ontological/ontical and existential/existentiell.
For Heidegger (1927), "Understanding of Being is itself a definite characteristic of Dasein's Being. Dasein is ontically distinctive in that it is ontological" (p. 12). The ontic, that which concerns beings, and the ontological, that which concerns ways of being, are differentiated by virtue of their apophantical and hermeneutical referents. Existential understanding, however, is an understanding of the ontological structures of existence, that is, what it is to be Dasein, and existentiell understanding is a person's self-understanding, that is, an understanding of her/his own way to be or what s/he is. While Heidegger does differentiate the ontological from the ontical, the ontical can be possible only vis--vis the ontological; thus, our social and individual practices embody an ontology ( Dreyfus, 1991).
For Heidegger, authenticity is a uniquely temporal structure and a process of unfolding possibility. It is a state of being that is active, congruent, contemplative, dynamic, and teleological--an agency burgeoning with quiescent potentiality (Guignon, 1984, 1993). As such, authenticity is the process of becoming one's possibilities; and by nature it is idiosyncratic and uniquely subjective. Generally we might say that selfhood vacillates between authentic and inauthentic modes, that it tarries with genuine inauthenticity only to find itself genuinely authentic. Selfhood therefore participates in many forms on its acclivity toward the apprehension of its possibilities and ontological priorities that constitute its Being. Perhaps selfhood is beyond this antithetical distinction; it merely is what it is. Perhaps authenticity is beyond the individual; for it ultimately belongs to the ontology that constitutes Being itself.
In its disclosedness, humankind is recalcitrant; it has the need to divulge itself as inauthenticity. Not only does Dasein unveil itself in the mundane modes of daily existence, but it does so in a false manner. But what does it mean for Dasein to be false? That is, what are the conditions that influence the development of inauthenticity? In this context, truth and falsity are regarded not in terms of their epistemic verity but in reference to selfhood's states of authentic and inauthentic disclosedness. Given this denotation, is it possible that the ontological structures of Dasein itself are false? Can the Being of Dasein be thrown into a deficit world, a world tainted by fallenness and inauthenticity, so much so that it predetermines Dasein's Being-in-the-world as a falsehood? To what degree is worldhood itself structurally differentiated into various existential modalities that are inauthentic, thereby affecting Dasein's modes of being and the ways in which selfhood is disclosed? I will demonstrate that the throes of selfhood encompass a dialectical course meandering through experiential modes of authenticity and inauthenticity in which this process is an authentic one; that is, it is the necessary a priori structure of Dasein itself as Being-toward-possibility.
In his philosophical treatise Being and Time, Heidegger (1927) offers an
existential ontology of selfhood as Dasein (being-there), the concretely existing
human being who is there, as part of a world. In Dasein's original disclosedness
as Being-in-the-world, one is thrust into the ontological contingency of "Being-in" (around-world) an environment (Umwelt) and "Being-with" (with-world)
others (Mitwelt) and with-oneself (own-world) (Eigenwelt), which underlies all
participation, engagement, and concrete involvement with the world that is
given in a person's immediate preoccupations and concerns. Thus, the world
itself is constitutive of Dasein's Being, for "Being-in-the-world is a state of
Dasein that is a necessary a priori, but it is far from sufficient for completely
determining Dasein's Being" (p. 79). Heidegger explicates that Dasein's Being
takes on a particular character a priori and exists within the modes of authentic
and inauthentic disclosedness. He writes,
Dasein exists. Furthermore, Dasein is an entity which in each case I myself am. Mineness belongs to any existent Dasein, and belongs to it as the conditions which make authenticity and inauthenticity possible. (p. 78)
The modes of Dasein's disclosedness are already structurally constituted in Dasein's Being-in-the-world. However, they are only the existential conditions that make authenticity and inauthenticity possible. Heidegger points out that these two modes of disclosedness must have ownership; that is, they necessarily belong to the subjective, singular Dasein. For our purposes, Dasein, composed of its ontological and existential dimensions disclosed as Being-in-the-world, is to be understood in the context of Selfhood.
As the self, Heidegger delineates the factuality of Dasein characterized by humankind's naked "thereness," one's abandonment as thrown into the publicness of "the they." While human beings disclose themselves in the everydayness of Being-in-the-world, they discover that they have been thrust into an environment without consultation or choice and by definition have been abandoned to chance factors that already constitute their Being. Therefore, a fundamental propensity of Dasein exists, one that belongs to everydayness and manifests itself as Das Man.
Das Man, one among "the they," is Dasein's ontological destiny. The world is a world in which one shares with others in communal proximity. Thus, Dasein's communal structure lends itself to a participation that cannot be annulled, namely, that of theyness. By virtue of Dasein's communal character, we cannot not participate in a world determined by the pragmatics of society and the everyday concerns that structure Dasein's activities.
For Heidegger, the question of authenticity becomes intimately associated
with the existential character of Dasein as concern and solicitude. He states,
If Dasein-with remains existentially constitutive for Being-in-the-world, then . . . it must be Interpreted in terms of the phenomenon of care; for as "care" the Being of Dasein in general is to be defined. (p. 157)
Just as Dasein's relation to the environment is that of practical concern, Dasein's
relation to the communal world is that of personal concern. As Heidegger
explains, this form of concern belonging to everydayness by necessity will
ultimately lead to modes of inauthenticity. As the "anonymous one," the unique-ness of selfhood is diffused and lost in depersonalization and "averageness."
Being for, against, or without one another, passing one another by, not "mattering" to one another--these are possible ways of solicitude. And it is precisely these last-named deficient and indifferent modes that character- ize everyday, average Being-with-one-another. (p. 158)
Heidegger expounds on another structural element in the ontological
constitution of Dasein, that of "fallenness." This is the universal tendency of
human beings to lose themselves in the everydayness of present concerns and
preoccupations to such a degree that it only alienates them from their personal
and unique future possibilities, thus reducing the fallen Das Man to a mere
"presence-at-hand." He posits:
This "absorption in . . ." has mostly the character of Being-lost in the
public- ness of the "they." Dasein has, in the first instance, fallen away from itself as an authentic potentiality for Being its Self, and has fallen into the 'world' (p. 220).
While on one hand, everydayness and fallenness are ontological and natural predispositions of Dasein and so are devoid of any value judgments attached to them; they are nevertheless modes of inauthenticity, ones that cannot be avoided or refused. The degree to which one participates in these in authentic modes, however, has a direct bearing on the existential status of falsehood. As a perpetual mode of inauthenticity, the falseness of Dasein becomes manifested as a "levelling down . . . of all possibilities of Being" (p. 165). The fallenness of Dasein is expressed most ostensively through idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. Gossip is an inauthentic use of discourse that simply repeats what is heard and accepted by the public without critically examining the grounds or validity of the subject matter in question. Idle talk is merely a repetition of the conventional, an unscrutinized acceptance of the interpretations of the public. The fallen Das Man is not concerned with understanding the ontological priorities of what is blindly accepted as truth or fact, but with reiterating the public clichs of the "anonymous one." Curiosity, which parallels gossip, underscores Dasein's voracious hunger to explore our environments merely for the sake of discovering novelty that provides excitement, a pleasurable distraction, and knowledge simply for the sake of knowing. Curiosity, therefore, is not motivated by the need for authentic understanding; it is merely an inauthentic form of solicitude. Ambiguity, however, is the dubious nature of information that is disseminated by "the they," which makes it impossible to determine what was disclosed in genuine understanding and what was not. This ambiguity is about the public gossip as well as in reference to Being-with-one-another and Dasein's Being-toward itself, hence, an inauthentic relatedness.
At this point, we must further clarify what we mean by Dasein's falsehood.
In his essay On the Essence of Truth, Heidegger (1949) explicates the Greeks'
understanding of aletheia as disclosedness or unconcealment. Truth may be
disclosed only from its hiddenness in a clearing that opens a space for unconcealment. Equally, as each space reveals the potentiality for truth to be made
known, conversely a closing exists in that truth may be revealed only in the wake
of concealment. Such movement of uncovering in the presence of covering
underlies the dialectical participation of the nature of truth. Given Heidegger's
analysis of aletheia, how can Dasein be false? From this standpoint, truth and
falsity are in reference to unconcealed states of Dasein's disclosedness, not in
terms of their epistemological status. Therefore, the anonymous one, the fallen
Das Man, the identification with "the they" of everydayness as averageness is a
direct allusion to a constricted Dasein. This inauthentic mode of Being is a
retreat from the ontological obligations that Dasein demands. In these extreme
modes, Dasein is a reduced self, a stifled existence, a false Being. In addition,
the false Dasein as Being-in and Being-with "the they," starts to take on an
existential character that is more negative, similar to Kierkegaard's notion of
"the crowd," or even more pejoratively, the Nietzschean "herd." The Dasein
who has fallen into falsehood closes itself off from authentically Being-in-the-world and even more significantly from Being-with and Being-toward itself. In
psychoanalysis, this might be chalked up to the defense mechanism of denial,
that is, people need to deny the ontological obligations of Dasein in the service
of more primordial psychological needs or conflicts, such as psychodynamic
motivations surrounding security, attachment, and as Heidegger points out,
"tranquility." But as he continues to point out, this tranquility leads to an
"aggravation" and alienation of Dasein from itself. Heidegger states:
When Dasein, tranquilized, and "understanding" everything, thus
compares itself with everything, it drifts along towards an alienation in
which its own most potentiality-for-Being is hidden from it. (p. 222)
This dialectical conflict brought about by fallenness then leads to the "downward
plunge" into the inauthentic Being of "the they" in which authentic possibility
is lost in obscurity and under the guise of "ascending" and "living concretely."
Is it possible, however, that this downhill plunge is a necessary one that provides
the dialectical movement toward the fulfillment of Dasein's possibilities?
Perhaps this turbulent necessity is the authentic movement of Dasein toward
itself as becoming. Rather than falling away from itself, Dasein is falling into
itself. But this is possible only if Dasein becomes aware of its possibilities that
it hides from itself. At this point we must ask: Why does Dasein close off its
possibilities in the tranquility of fallenness rather than seize them authentically?
In other words, why does it hide from itself its own potentiality-for-Being?
Perhaps Dasein is afraid--afraid of its freedom.
In offering an existential analysis of the false Dasein, we have determined that Dasein's fundamental structure is ontologically oriented toward fallenness. In the case of the false Dasein, however, fallenness is exacerbated in that Dasein constricts its comportment primarily to the modes of the inauthentic, thereby abdicating its potentiality-for-Being. Why would Dasein abnegate its potentiality? While theoretically distinct from Heidegger's existential ontology, Sartre's conception of inauthenticity may further contribute to our understanding of the psychological-ontical processes immersed in Dasein's falsehood.
While Heidegger's and Sartre's existential ontologies are conceptually distinct with variegated subtleties, the question of authenticity is central to both of their philosophies. Albeit conceived differently from Heidegger's inauthentic Dasein, Sartre's notion of bad faith, as the renunciation of human freedom in the service of self-deception, contributes to our understanding of selfhood entrenched in the toils of inauthenticity and further anticipates the psychodynamic exploration of the underlying defensive processes characteristic of the dynamic unconscious. While Heidegger offers a comprehensive hermeneutical treatment of Dasein in its relation to selfhood, Sartre depicts more acutely the psychological processes involved in the formation and maintenance of inauthenticity. While respecting the distinctions and divergences between Heidegger's and Sartre's ontological discourses, it becomes important to illuminate Dasein's falsehood in terms of its inauthentic ontical relations which is the primary task of psychoanalysis. The equivocation of these different terminologies are therefore intended to facilitate the conceptual bridge between the existential-ontological structures of Dasein and their relation to the existentiell-ontical manifestations of inauthenticity that will be further addressed within a psychoanalytic account of selfhood.
In his magnum opus, Being and Nothingness, Sartre (1956) introduced the
notion of mauvaise foi, or bad faith. For Sartre, consciousness is Being, "a
being, the nature of which is to question its own being, that being implying a
being other than itself," that is, "to be conscious of the nothingness of its being"
(p. 86). Therefore, the authentic Being is literally "no-thing." The failure to
define yourself as other-than what you are is to reify yourself as a thing and thus
deny the possibility of a future transcendence. Such self-negation is the pinnacle
of inauthenticity. Sartre asserts, "[C]onsciousness instead of directing its
negation outward turns it toward itself. This attitude is bad faith" (p. 87).
Generally, bad faith may be characterized by self-deception, a lie to yourself.
But how can you lie to yourself? Only if you are not consciously aware of such
intentions to lie or to deceive. For the individual in bad faith, the nature of such
a lie "is not recognized by the liar as his intention" (p. 88). While a genuine lie
is a "behavior of transcendence," the bad faith lie is a denial of such possibility.
Such is the case that the liar finds her/himself as the victim of her/his own self-deception and lives in falsehood.
By the lie consciousness affirms that it exists by nature as hidden from the
Other; it utilizes for its own profit the ontological duality of myself and
myself in the eyes of the Other. The situation can not be the same, for bad
faith if this, as we have said, is indeed a lie to oneself. To be sure, the one
who practices bad faith is hiding a displeasing truth or presenting a
pleasing untruth. Bad faith then has in appearance the structure of
falsehood. Only what changes everything is the fact than in bad faith it is
from myself that I am hiding the truth. (pp. 88-89)
Sartre's notion of bad faith is intimately linked to his model of consciousness. He recognized two levels of consciousness, namely (1) consciousness as intentionality and self-reflection, and (2) pre-reflective consciousness. The former is consciousness as such and encompasses awareness of the self as a human subject. Pre-reflective consciousness is the form of consciousness prior to being aware (of) an object for reflection. This is similar to Freud's notion of pre-consciousness, that is, you are not immediately aware of an internal event or object but could be if your attention were drawn to that particular object for reflection. Sartre vociferously repudiated the notion of the Freudian unconscious; instead, his model espouses Brentano's concept of intentionality. Consciousness is always conscious of or about something--conscious of some object we posit or place before us for reflection. Therefore, consciousness has no inertia; consciousness is not an object, nor does it exist in-itself. For Sartre, consciousness can be positional or non-positional. Consciousness that posits places before it an object for immediate reflection. Non-positional consciousness is consciousness by itself. This is experienced as a "lack," a hole in being. The notion of lack is tied to his concept of nothingness, and as freedom we try to fill the lack through our projects. Therefore, consciousness is what it is not and is not what it is. For Sartre, we are more than what we can be if we are reduced to what we are. What we are is freedom, and as freedom we are transcendence.
Bad faith can manifest in various existential modalities, from singular
situational choices to patterns of self-deception, or as may be argued, character
structure. Nevertheless, there is a double face to bad faith, namely (1) facticity
and (2) transcendence. In the first case, bad faith is the failure to accept one's
facticity. In the second, it is a failure of transcendence. For example, Sartre
portrays a woman who consents to go out with a man for the first time and in her
bad faith she denies the intentions behind his seductive conduct. "She does not
want to realize the urgency" of the moment and "refuses to apprehend the desire
for what it is" (pp. 96-97). Throughout the flirtations, her companion places her
in such a position as to require an immediate decision, only to be protracted and
disguised by the various procedures she uses to maintain herself in this self-deception. Her "aim is to postpone the moment of decision as long as possible"
(p. 97). In this example, the woman has failed to project a future, and has
allowed herself not to take notice of the reality of the situation. Her decision
rests in the locus of pre-reflective consciousness; she chose not to posit a future
with this gentleman, thus deceiving herself of such possibility. Sartre relates,
She has disarmed the actions of her companion by reducing them to being only what they are; that is, to existing in the mode of the in-itself. But she permits herself to enjoy his desire, to the extent that she will apprehend it as not being what it is, will recognize its transcendence. (pp. 97-98)
The woman has reduced herself to a thing, a passive object in which events can happen to her that she can neither provoke nor avoid. In bad faith, the person is in possession of the truth, but fails to acknowledge it as such, thereby avoiding the responsibility it requires.
For Sartre, authenticity or good faith is when you represent yourself to yourself in the mode of being what you are not. The bad faith attitude is one in which people seek to flee from their freedom and the obligations it demands by construing themselves as things, each a Being-in-itself rather than a Being-for-itself. Instead of, "I am in the mode of being what I am not," the bad faith attitude is, "I am in the mode of being what I am," thus, a thing-in-itself. In short, as human agents we must choose. As long as we consciously choose in freedom and accept full responsibility for our actions, we are in good faith. Human beings define and redefine themselves via their choices. Decisions are made in the interest of a value, or we are in bad faith. This is the case when we fail to choose, or more appropriately, when we choose not to choose authentically.
Sartre's portrayal of bad faith elucidates the psychological nuances of self-deception that are structurally instantiated in Dasein's ontical practices. For Heidegger, bad faith would be a deficient mode of Dasein's Being-in-the-world; more specifically, Being-with-oneself and Being-toward your future authentic possibilities. In this general context, Dasein's fallenness is bad faith, a falsehood, a retreat into the everydayness of theyness cloaked by self-deception. Furthermore, to deny our human reality as freedom by defining ourselves as things is Dasein's propensity to reduce itself to a mere "presence-at-hand."
If Sartre's depiction of bad faith is accurate, then every human being is in
self-deception at one time or another. In fact, this is a necessary ontological
condition of Dasein itself. Due to our penchants to fall into inauthentic modes
of Being-in-the-world, Dasein will inevitably engage in such deceptive practices.
For Sartre, we are condemned to freedom, which necessitates radical responsibility for our Being-for-itself. However, choices are made in the context of our
ontological facticity and thus are affected by a milieu which, by definition, is
deficient or inauthentic. Sartre's position ultimately demands for Being to
transcend its ontological structures via choice. To what degree is this possible?
Furthermore, he ostensively denies the primordial motivations of the dynamic
unconscious. While Sartre rejected the psychoanalytic project, his delineation
of inauthenticity contributes to the psychodynamic conceptualization of the
primacy of ego organization in personality development. Again, we might say
that bad faith is a defensive form of denial, a disavowal in the service of
unconscious motivations, wishes, and conflicts. Sartre assumes that every Being
has the same developmental capacities and intrapsychic structures to choose
authentically as free agents. But what if the individual's freedom to recognize
authentic choices has been truncated because of structural deficits in psychological development? Like the case of selfhood's ontological conditions that are
predetermined, is it possible that Being itself is robbed of its full potential for
Hitherto, our exegetical treatment of Dasein has depicted the tussles of selfhood as encompassing an ontologically structured falsehood that presupposes a priori Dasein's existential disclosedness as Being-in-the-world. While the predisposition toward inauthenticity is an elemental edifice instantiated within Dasein's facticity, the specific psychological-ontical dimensions of Dasein's falseness need further exploration. Dasein's psychological structures become more lucid with the assistance of a psychoanalytic explication of the self, which in turn enhances Heideggerian philosophy. While Freud does not offer a systematic theory of the self, the notion of the self is implicit in his final tripartite-structural model of the mind; namely: The self is the unity of the id, ego, and superego. (Refer to Chapter One for this discussion.)
You will recall, in contemporary psychoanalysis, psychodynamic concept-ualizations of the self primarily inhere to interpersonal perspectives vis--vis relational theories and Kohutian self psychology, whereas Freud's classical paradigm has devolved into object relations and selfobject theories. The psychological dissection of authenticity becomes increasingly important when we examine a particular modality of Dasein's being, namely, the false self.
What would it be like not to know who you are, to be alienated from your true sense of self? What would it be like to have to construct an identity that is ingenuine and artificially manufactured? What would it be like not to feel real? In psychoanalysis, a burgeoning interest in the concept of the false self is shown in the clinical literature (Cassimatis, 1984; Chescheir 1985; Khan, 1971; Lerner, 1985; Schacht, 1988). The inauthentic self, or the "as if" personality, further deepens our understanding of the false Dasein. Winnicott (1960) formally introduced the notion of the false self. While some parallels exist between Heidegger's exposition of the fallen Dasein and Sartre's depiction of bad faith, Winnicott's contributions to understanding the question of authenticity deserve special merit. For Winnicott, a false self is the result of developmental conflict encountered in the child-maternal relationship. As a result, a false self is constructed as a defensive system that is unconsciously maintained. Winnicott's theoretical framework falls within a defense model that is ultimately tied to drive theory within the interpersonal context of the mother-child dyad. While having a ground in Freudian metapsychology, Winnicott's conceptualization of the false self is essentially a relational theory centering on ego defensive maneuvers that arise in response to environmental demands. More specifically, in the infant-mother milieu, the child struggles to manage libidinal impulses that are solely intrapsychic; however, this struggle takes place in the interpersonal and intersubjective phenomenal field of the relational matrix. Therefore, in the stage of the first object-relationships, various defenses are constructed in response to external demands, namely, those of the maternal object. Thus, ego organization is in the service of adaptation to the environment and procurement of object attachment. Repeated compliance with such demands concomitant with a withdrawal from self-generated spontaneity leads to an increased stifling of impulses constitutive of the natural drive for spontaneous expression, thereby culminating in a false self-development.
For Winnicott, the idea of a true self originates in the infant's capacity to
recognize and enact spontaneous needs for self-expression. "Only the True Self
can be creative and only the True Self can feel real" (p. 148). And so the notion
of the self as the center of spontaneity that has the "experience of aliveness"
constitutes the heart of authenticity. However, this ability to enact such spont-aneous gestures is contingent on the responsiveness of the "good-enough
mother" within an appropriate "holding environment." The etiology of the true
and false self, then, is contingent on the quality of maternal responsiveness.
The good-enough mother meets the omnipotence of the infant and to some
extent makes sense of it. She does this repeatedly. A True Self begins to
have life, through the strength given to the infant's weak ego by the
mother's implementation of the infant's omnipotent expressions. (p. 145)
The true self flourishes only in response to the repeated success of the mother's optimal responsiveness to the infant's spontaneous expressions. If the mother is "not good-enough," she does not facilitate the infant's omnipotence and repeatedly fails to meet the child's spontaneous gestures with appropriate responsiveness. Instead she substitutes her own gestures with which the infant complies; thereby, this repeated compliance becomes the ground for the earliest mode of the false self existence due to the mother's inability to sense and respond optimally to her infant's needs.
Like Heidegger's hermeneutical treatment of Dasein's existential ontology, Winnicott has obviated the subject-object dichotomy with regards to the ontological structures of the self. The maternal holding environment is part of the ontological structure of Dasein; it is constitutive of Dasein's Being. Failure in empathic attunement, mirroring, and optimal responsiveness is a deficient mode of Being-with, thus a precondition of the false Dasein's inauthenticity. In this context, freedom becomes abridged, affecting the true self development as it would have unfolded if Dasein's ontological constitution of Being-with had been different. Winnicott supports this claim: "This compliance on the part of the infant is the earliest stage of the False Self, and belongs to the mother's inability to sense her infant's needs" (p. 145).
Under these circumstances, perhaps a false self is not false at all. The false
structures are authentic ones; that is, they are constitutive of a True Self, albeit
a deficient self. Due to the historicity of various ontological contingencies that
are themselves deficient modes of Being-in-the-world, as a structurally deficient
Dasein, authenticity becomes curtailed by the demands of other Daseins in the
ontological structure of worldhood itself. In this sense, there is no pure or
pristine authentic self distinct from Dasein's Being-with. However, Dasein's
Being-with others and toward-oneself will be greatly affected by the false
structural elements of these deficient modes. Winnicott explains:
[T]he infant gets seduced into compliance, and a compliant False Self
reacts to environmental demands and the infant seems to accept them.
Through this False Self the infant builds up a false set of relationships, and
by means of introjections even attains a show of being real, so that the
child may grow up to be just like mother, nurse, aunt, brother, or whoever
at the time dominates the scene. (p. 146)
The nature of such defensive functions of the false self are constructed for one cardinal purpose, namely, "to hide and protect the True Self" (p. 142). "The False Self defends the True Self; the True Self is, however, acknowledged as a potential and is allowed a secret life" (p. 143). But what is the nature of this true or authentic self that is allowed a secret life? Winnicott does not offer an adequate explanation; he only points to the ability to enact spontaneous gestures of self-expression. Winnicott expounds, "The True Self appears as soon as there is any mental organization of the individual at all, and it means little more than the summation of sensori-motor aliveness" (p. 149). Is this a sufficient understanding of authenticity? Does the notion of authenticity not carry with it, if not demand of it, that Dasein can to some degree transcend its mere thrownness? Clearly Dasein is other-than its physiological contingencies. On one level, to be authentic or true is to act in accord with our genuine and congruent innate strivings and yearnings. In the various psychoanalytic domains, authenticity may conform to the influence of drive determinants, ego mastery of the self and the environment, object relatedness and the pining for relational attachments, and the psychic need for mirroring and idealizing selfobject experiences that form the rudimentary basis of a vital and cohesive self. Whatever the nature or being of these authentic strivings are, Winnicott assumes they exist, are hidden, and are preserved unconsciously because of the character structure of defense.
Winnicott concludes that the false self takes on a role that appears to be "real," when in fact it is artificial. This pseudo-real appearance takes on a "personal living through imitation" in which the child may "act a special role, that of the True Self as if it would be if it had had existence" (p. 147). However, for Winnicott, the true self always exists behind the mask of the false persona, lying dormant, concealed, and protected. The false self as defense is "a defence against that which is unthinkable, the exploitation of the True Self, which would result in its annihilation" (p. 147). And so the etiology of the false self may be said to arise out of the deficient modes of other Daseins, which were foisted upon the child with various ontological and psychological exigencies to comply with or perish under. Therefore a false personality constellation is constructed in reaction to the fear of death of the self. Such fear of annihilation is the most archaic form of existential anxiety, a primordial denial of Dasein's Being-toward-death.
The unconscious displacement of the emerging false Dasein's annihilation anxiety is organized within the interpersonal matrix of the infant's earliest object relations. In this context, Masterson (1981) defines the false self as "a collection of behaviors, thoughts and feelings that are motivated by the need to cling to the object," and thus suppress the longings for separateness and individuation (p. 101). According to contemporary object relations theory, the false self functions defensively as a means to ward off separation anxiety and abandonment fears, which ultimately represent the inability to integrate whole self-object representations that in turn become the formative basis of a cohesive self. As a result, the capacity for spontaneity, autonomous self-assertion, and the expression of creativity is stymied and lost in falsehood.
Winnicott's developmental model anticipates Kohut's (1971,1977,1984) psychoanalytic self psychology. For Kohut, you will recall, the self is a bipolar structure composed of two poles, namely, (1) the pole of ambitions and strivings and (2) the pole of values and ideals. The former constitutes mirroring selfobject experiences in which the authentic core self is the center of initiative, autonomy, vitality, and self-assertion. The second pole is attained through the identification process and merger with the omnipotent, calming, infallible, selfobjects that are internalized and become the intrapsychic structural foundation of the self. Kohut (1978) theoretically moves away from the metapsychology of classical theory, as the primacy of the self replaces the vicissitudes of the drives as "the center of our being from which all initiative springs and where all experience[s] end" (p. 95). The self as the center of initiative and psychic motivation depends on the quality of selfobject experiences for its structural integrity and cohesion. Within this context, a false self would develop out of repeated failure in empathic attunement and optimal responsiveness in the early selfobject milieu. If the self becomes defined in the context of others' narcissistic needs, capacities for self-soothing and self-esteem regulation are thwarted because of a depleted or fragmented self structure.
A false self can manifest in various modalities and in degrees of its falseness. The more psychologically adjusted false self organization may be represented by the overly compliant, obsequious, acquiescent, interpersonally polite attitudes that accompany the expectations of social convention. This representation may be similar to Dasein's everydayness as fallenness in the modes of idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity. The individual in bad faith makes inauthentic choices that are situational, repetitious, or characterological in the service of avoiding her/his responsibility to accept personal freedom. In other words, s/he characteristically chooses not to choose authentically and resides in the everyday mode of "the they," as the fallen Das Man.
For contemporary psychoanalysis, Dasein's tendency toward fallenness serves primary motivations for relational attachment, emotional-interpersonal involvement, and validation of the self. For the false Dasein, such conditions are inordinately intensified due to intrapsychic structural vulnerabilities of the self. Miller (1981) discusses a particular form of false development, that of individuals who are raised by narcissistic parents and are cajoled into being responsive and attuned to everyone else's needs at the expense of their own. Children who are treated as objects to meet the narcissistic fulfillments of their parents may develop a virtuous yet tragic gift, the gift of empathy. Throughout the drama of the gifted child, the false Dasein may develop skills of empathic attunement to anticipate, respond, and meet the wishes of others in order to gain love and attention of its own, but only at the steep price of sacrificing its true self.
Still more toward maladjustment, the false self is the "actor" who puts on a theatrical facade but is unable to remove this persona; s/he becomes over-identified in her/his role and loses her/his authenticity in one-sidedness. In Jung's analytical psychology, one-sidedness is used to denote a psychic dimension of the self that is false. Within a Jungian context, one-sidedness with an individual's persona would be an over-identification with the archetypical nature of the collective unconscious that is constricted. Following Jung's notion of the Principles of Equivalence and Entropy, one-sidedness would be an over-emphasis and incompensatory discharge of mental energy, hence unequally distributed within the psyche.
Under the rubric of such one-sidedness, the individual seeks to make
her/himself into a "thing," a Being-in-itself rather than a Being-for-Self.
Winnicott (1960) asserts, "Whereas a True Self feels real, the existence of a
False Self results in a feeling unreal or a sense of futility" (p. 148). He
continues, "The best example I can give is that of a middle-aged woman who
had a very successful False Self but who had the feeling all her life that she had
not started to exist" (p. 142). In the severe forms of psychiatric impairment, a
false self system consists of an organization of various part-selves, none of which
is so fully developed as to have a comprehensive personality of its own. This
clinical phenomenon is what Laing (1969) spoke of as the "divided self." In a
divided self no single false self exists, only partially elaborated fragments that
might constitute a personality. Within the Daseinsanalytic tradition (see
Kockelmans, 1978), for R.D. Laing, Ludwig Binswanger, Medard Boss, Karl
Jaspers, and more contemporarily Rollo May, a false self develops out of
ontological insecurity, thereby leading to an overall constricted Dasein. To the
extreme, the self may experience a dissociation or may experience splitting of its
embodied and disembodied aspects.
Up to now, we have delineated the ontological and psychological structures of the false Dasein as inauthenticity maintains itself in the throes of selfhood. By virtue of Dasein's ontological predisposition as Being-in-the world, selfhood is subjected to inauthentic existential modalities already constitutive of its Being. Such disclosedness to worldhood is formatively installed in Dasein's constitution. Dasein's propensity toward fallenness is therefore necessary and unavoidable. However, if environmental conditions are such that Dasein's ordinary ontological structure is subject to more extreme forms of inauthenticity, the false development of the singular Dasein may not be eluded. The false Dasein results from interactions with preexisting deficient modes of Being-in-the-world that are thrust upon selfhood as its facticity. These false ontological structures lead to further vulnerabilities that predispose Dasein to develop psychological deficiencies as well. Thus, the psychological attributes of the self are corporeally manifested in Dasein's ontology. Such intrapsychic and structural limitations of the self further contribute to Dasein's false existence and deficient modes of Being-in-the-world and Being-toward-Self.
Given these assumptions contextualized in the false Dasein, worldhood itself may be said to be a falsehood, plagued by bad faith and copious forms of psychopathology, therefore inauthentic. Can Dasein transcend its predicament, or is it destined to live inauthentically? In their respective conceptualizations, Heidegger and Sartre would contend that ultimately the self is free. However, freedom exists in the context of Dasein's ontological constitution. For Ricoeur (1965,1966), Dasein primarily exists as fallenness in the sense that the will is enslaved by its actual conditions. In the case of the false self, Dasein is constricted by virtue of its ontological relation to a deficient environment that contributes to deficits in Dasein's psychological development. Assuming this is the case, does this false or deficient structure lead to another proclivity of Dasein to fall even further into inauthenticity? That is, if the environment into which an individual was hurled were ontologically inadequate from the beginning, is not this bound to affect Dasein's future overall Being-in-the-world? Is not Dasein's Being-in and Being-with others and with-oneself greatly precluded of genuine authenticity or at least the full possibility of such? And where does freedom and responsibility fit in for Dasein's future possibilities?
The false Dasein has no control over its thrownness (as authenticity in the toils of inauthenticity). However, as Heidegger and Sartre would insist, Dasein has the capacity and responsibility to choose authentically, thereby actualizing its freedom to become and fulfill its possibilities. However, is this a correct assumption? Winnicott and Kohut underscore the point that the individual's true self or authentic Dasein may be structurally deficient, hence false. This falseness is not due merely to Dasein's historicity that may bring about self-deception; instead, it is due to developmental interactions that form the psychological basis of a cohesive self. That is, the intrapsychic foundation of the self is deficit and replete with tumultuous unconscious activity, thereby influencing choices and the modes Dasein assumes in the pursuit of authenticity. Perhaps the false Dasein does not have the capacities that are more authentically developed in other Daseins thereby encumbering the ability to form genuine good faith comportments characteristic of an authentic posture. Is it possible that the individual's intrapsychic structures are so deficit that the emergence of a false character organization is not false at all but is only deficient in comparison to other Daseins whose ontological and developmental constitutions are less false? Is the false Dasein destined to make choices that are dynamically informed by such limitations? Are these structures set firmly in place as unwavering constitutional vulnerabilities, or does an inner motivation exist that underdeveloped structures would resume their appropriate development if given the opportunity? And what would constitute this opportunity, a modification of Dasein's introspective capacities as recognizing and then actualizing its freedom within the context of its thrownness? Would this opportunity also require a modification from the social environment? Does the hidden true self strive for authentic expression despite its false structure, or is this false structure already its own true or authentic mode?
If selfhood is abandoned to falsehood already constitutive a priori of its Being, then the false Dasein will structurally exist (both ontologically and developmentally) in authenticity but in deficient modes. In other words, Dasein's false structures are authentic ones given Dasein's ontological contingencies that inform these deficient modes of Being. However, these constitutional deficiencies may lead the false Dasein to develop further deficient modes of Being-in-the-world, and to the extreme, psychopathology. The false Dasein is a real system; it is primary and true although stifled in its development. Due to these partially underdeveloped structures, it is unformed in its potential; thereby its internal states directly influence inauthentic modes of Being. Although the false Dasein is real, it is deficient and impedes more healthy aspects of the self from flourishing. Therefore, the lie or the falsehood is experienced as real albeit in the modes of the inauthentic.
At this point we must ask: To what degree does the false Dasein have responsibility to its authentic possibilities? Can the false Dasein overcome its fallenness and its psychological vulnerabilities? Can it alter its ontological and developmental status? Heidegger differentiates: "The Self of everyday Dasein is the they-self, which we distinguish from the authentic Self--that is, from the Self which has been taken hold of its own way" (p. 167). Can the false Dasein take hold of its true nature as transcendental possibility?
Like Sartre's position of self-deception, Winnicott would maintain that the false self hides the inner realities of the true self. In this respect however, unlike Sartre's, the unconscious cannot be denied. These authentic wishes, strivings, and yearnings will always be allowed to have a secret life in the nightlike abyss of the unconscious, and their disillusionments endured. But what resonates within the nocturnal pit of Dasein's core Being? Perhaps it is Dasein's transcendental authenticity as the "potentiality-for-Being which must be made free in one's ownmost Dasein alone" (p. 222).
For Heidegger, authenticity is ultimately self-relatedness (within world-relatedness) marked by the embracing of Dasein's responsibility toward genuine
care. This care, in other words, is an ownership of Dasein's freedom that in turn
opens a space for sublated authenticity that perennially exalts itself in its self-world relation. For Heidegger, this necessitates the "call of conscience," the
voice of Dasein within Dasein that summons us to respond to an authentic
appeal to transcend the corrupted public everydayness of Being and to call
Dasein to a new possibility of Being. It is the voice of authentic Dasein's Being-toward authentic possibility. It summons me, it commands me toward myself.
Such authentic relationship to our true possibilities of Being-toward-possibility must be born out of our own experience, clamoring for a higher unity
of Being. Authentic Being-one's-Self requires an existentiell modification of the
"they" in which "Dasein specifically brings itself back to itself from its lostness"
(p. 312). Authentic Dasein must "make up" for not living and choosing
genuinely and must first make possible its authentic potentiality-for-Being.
Dasein comes to find itself through the disclosure of conscience as an inner
voice. The receptivity of the voice calls Dasein to a "giving-to-understand" the
authentic self in which the call "passes over" the they-self and finds its true
home in its enlightened understanding of itself. Heidegger articulates:
One must keep in mind that when we designate the conscience as a "call,"
this call is an appeal to the they-self in its Self; as such an appeal, it
summons the Self to its potentiality-for-Being-its-Self, and thus calls
Dasein forth to its possibilities. (p. 319)
As conscience, Dasein calls itself; it is both the caller and the one being called. The voice of conscience has the character of an appeal "summoning to its ownmost Being-guilty" (p. 314). Such guilt, however, is not a moral or psychological guilt; instead it is an indebted, beholden obligation Dasein has toward its responsibility to become and fulfill itself as Being-in-the-world. Dasein must seize upon such guilt in that it "owes" something to itself and to others. It is the call of care in which its lostness is recovered in its apprehension of its obligation to be other-than what it is in its everydayness. But what does the voice say? It says nothing. The content or substance of such a call is an empty one; it is the inner voice without words, an appeal without authority, a summons without a notice; it is merely the "call of care." Thus, the call is the inner guidance of truth, an enlightenment that "points forward to Dasein's potentiality-for-Being" (p. 325).
This call comes from the uncanniness it experiences in its guilt, which makes Dasein inextricably responsible for its own authentic becoming. Such uncanniness arouses a ubiquitous anxiety, one directed toward its truth as "resoluteness." As a distinctive mode of Dasein's disclosedness, resoluteness is the truth of Dasein's authenticity as "Being-one's-Self" as concern for Being-alongside what is ready-to-hand and the solicitous care of Being-with-others. As positive solicitude in Dasein's Being-with, authenticity is a special form of concern, that which is a "leap ahead" of the other, a genuine care that helps the other "become transparent to himself in his care and to become free for it" (p. 159). Equiprimordially, such transparency must apply to Dasein's Being-toward-itself as care.
On one level, the truly authentic Dasein is idiosyncratic; it is uniquely
subjective and personal. Heidegger supports this position:
When the call gives us a potentiality-for-Being to understand, it does not give us one which is ideal and universal; it discloses it as that which has been currently individualized and which belongs to that particular Dasein. (p. 326).
In this context, authenticity is a Being who contemplates itself, a Being who transforms itself. As authenticity, Dasein is care. Authenticity is Dasein's possibility as such; a fundamental relatedness of possibility-toward-becoming as an indeterminate openness to oneself. Authenticity is then simply, to be, to be in selfhood that is a fundamental openness rather than a self-enclosed, self-enslaved participation in everydayness. It is the relatedness of Being-toward-transcendence in its purest form.
But what are we to make of Heidegger's final determination of authenticity? We are left with a sense of generic ambiguity. Authenticity is opaque and equivocal; it follows a voice that does not speak, it points to a direction that is not visible, it summons us to respond to a calling we cannot identify. Yet it appeals to an obligation that cannot be disowned. Perhaps authenticity is beyond what words can define; only Dasein knows its truth. Do such clear-cut demarcations between authenticity and inauthenticity exist? We think not. Instead of this antipode, we need to understand selfhood as a development on a continuum of authenticity, in a state of becoming, as emerging freedom. How are we to determine the criteria of what constitutes an authentic from an inauthentic Dasein when these ontic-existentiell conditions are indissolubly determined in Dasein's own Being? If Dasein is its disclosedness in that we disclose ourselves and then discover ourselves in our disclosing, then the false Dasein is only one mode of Being-in-the-world capable of finding itself in its lostness and recovering its authenticity in its freedom. Therefore, the false Dasein is capable of hearing the call, understanding the message, responding to the subpoena by following the path of possibility, and transcending its thrownness in its Being-toward-becoming. The horizon of possibility is Dasein.
Throughout our quest for authenticity, we have seen how inauthenticity is maintained within an authentic falsehood ontologically constituted in Dasein's existential disclosedness. Despite the false Dasein's inauthentic comportment as Being-in-the-world, we have determined that it is possible for Dasein to transcend its inauthenticity, even in the case of the false self, by apprehending its authentic Being-toward-possibility in its potentiality-for-Self. In other words, despite intrapsychic deficits characteristic of the psychodynamic interpretation of the false self, Dasein can ennoble itself in actualizing its freedom. Perhaps the interface between Heideggerian philosophy and psychoanalysis provides us with a clearer window into the possibilities for selfhood and gives us a more profound grasp on what it is to be.
In conclusion, I believe there is for Dasein, a double edge of centeredness.
Namely, the authentic center of selfhood is one in the same, inseparable and
modally undifferentiated in that authenticity and inauthenticity exist in
symbiosis as the core dialectical status of Dasein's Being. Dasein is beyond the
authentic and the impure; a disclosure of such unification is its wholeness. In
the phenomenon of falsehood, everydayness is a deficient mode yet a necessary
compliment to the dialectical position of selfhood. In this sense, existence is
neutral; it discloses the conditions not only for fallenness but also for transcendence as Dasein's emphatic destiny. The choice can only be Dasein's. As a
temporal structure, authentic Dasein is a movement, an incessant opening and
closing of itself to itself, entering into the mode of the inauthentic only to
discover its authenticity in such violent process. Indeed, this process is an
authentic one, a continual movement on the continuum, sublating and elevating
itself in awareness, understanding, and action. In Hegelian terms, this double-center is Aufheben, a dialectical process continuously being annulled, preserved,
and surpassed. Authenticity is therefore merely a moment, the indeterminate
immediate. Bound within its temporal unfolding, authenticity is Being-in-becoming one's possibilities. As the possibility-for-Self, authenticity is only one
appearance among many appearances. It emerges from itself and passes away
back into itself, coming to be what it already is, the process of its own becoming.
As an existentiell, the discovery or realization of one's inauthentic modes of
Being necessitates if not commands a dialectical movement toward the
fulfillment of one's authentic possibilities in the endless search of the true self.
This double edge is Dasein.
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